Posts Tagged ‘Animal Welfare Act’

Government Agency Demonstrates Once Again How It Supports Puppy Mills

October 5, 2014 2 comments

On Friday, I was alerted to this Action Alert from the Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS):

September 30, 2014 – In a stunning setback in their efforts to increase enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA),  USDA has suddenly reversed course and decided to, once again, tolerate substandard conditions at puppy mills.
Dr. Chester Gipson, USDA’s chief of enforcement for the AWA, recently told animal advocates that the USDA needs “to enable breeders to sell their dogs to pet stores” and citing violations is an impediment to such sales…..
Shockingly, USDA has made the decision to help substandard breeders circumvent these ordinances and to continue to sell puppies in spite of continuing violations.

Sad Looking Chocolate LabI found myself at complete odds. The idealistic activist side of me wanted to scream in outrage at what appears to be a setback in the fight against puppy mills, while the veteran, and somewhat jaded, side of me could only sigh and shake my head in resignation.

If you have any knowledge, understanding or experience with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), then you know this is simply par for the course for them. I don’t think I would be exaggerating to say they are probably one of the worst agencies in the federal government.

Whether it be the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), responsible for enforcing the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and for inspecting puppy mills, or the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), responsible for ensuring that the nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products are safe, the USDA seems to excel in their inability to perform their job.

In 2010, the Office of Inspector General issued their latest audit (one of many) of APHIS and their performance as it came to enforcing the Animal Welfare Act with commercial breeders. The results, while not surprising, were damning.

They found the following deficiencies:

  •  The Enforcement Process Was Ineffective Against Problematic Dealers -The agency believed compliance could be enforced through education and cooperation and thus took little or no enforcement action against most commercial dog and cat breeders
  • Inspectors Did Not Cite or Document Violations Properly To Support Enforcement Actions – inspectors did not correctly report all repeat or direct violations and did not take pictures or document properly. As a result, some problematic puppy mill dealers were inspected less frequently and in many cases got off easily.
  • APHIS’ New Penalty Worksheet Calculated Minimal Penalties. Although APHIS previously agreed to revise its penalty worksheet to produce “significantly higher” penalties for violators of AWA, the agency continued to assess minimal penalties that did not deter violators. In other words, puppy millers received minimal penalties a majority of the time.
  • APHIS Misused Guidelines to Lower Penalties for AWA Violators – Inspectors misused its guidelines so that violators would be penalized more lightly than warranted, even for repeat offenders with serious violations.
  • Some Large Breeders Circumvented AWA by Selling Animals Over the Internet. (This was recently changed, but given their past history, I doubt it will be enforced or treated any differently than today.)
  • Did Not Adequately Establish Payment Plans for Stipulations – Payment plans for violators were not adequately established so they rarely paid, and if they failed to pay, there was no process in place to follow up. (What a joke.)
Puppy mill kennelsI would like to say this is an aberration, a one-time deal, but that is not the case. Past audits from 2005, 1995 and 1992, showed similar inadequacies and violations.  The USDA excels in their inability and unwillingness to enforce current law. It is what they do best.And it doesn’t just apply to puppy mills.
Take a look at the Office of Inspector General’s report from May 2013 on the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) as it related to swine slaughter facilities (Reminder: FSIS is the public health agency responsible for ensuring food safety as it relates to the commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products.):
  • Enforcement Policies Do Not Deter Repeat Violators
  • Some Inspectors Performed Insufficient Post-Mortem and Sanitation Inspections
  • Swine HIMP Pilot Program Lacks Sufficient Oversight (HIMP = HACCP-based Inspection Models Project (HIMP) for swine.
  • FSIS Could Not Always Ensure Humane Handling at Swine Slaughter Plants

Or look at the Office of Inspector General’s report on Verifying Credentials of Veterinarians Employed or Accredited by USDA or the Office of Inspector General’s report on FSIS and their E. Coli testing on boxed beef or numerous other reports related to APHIS or FSIS.

PugYes. The USDA’s supervision of animals  (in puppy mills and/or other animal facilities) is a complete and utter failure and has been for a very long time. Maybe that is why I am not surprised by this most recent setback. The truth is this is not a setback at all. It is simply a new iteration of what they have always done – let the violators go free, unchecked, with little chance of ever having to face charges for their violations. Same dance, different dance hall.  If anyone thinks the USDA or APHIS is going to start enforcing the law now, then they are sadly mistaken. They haven’t been doing so for years.

I don’t discourage from contacting Secretary Tom Vilsack, as CAPS requests, just that you not expect much from this agency. This is just the same dance in a different dance hall.

You can contact Secretary Tom Vilsack at or leave a message at (202) 720-3631.

Maybe the best plan of attack is to take the middle guy out and just take the fight to your own local town and city governments. The more you support ordinances and laws that outlaw the sale of pets in pet stores in your community the less power the USDA has to influence anything. Let’s take the fight where it is most effective. Lead the charge locally and eliminate the need for the USDA at all.

Proposals, puppy mills and postulations

October 5, 2011 8 comments

I’ve been involved in a rather long discourse (over several days) with someone on a friend’s page. The topic? The new regulations being proposed by the USDA regarding the retail sale of pets, over the internet and elsewhere. These regulations would revise the current version of the Animal Welfare Act, which is the overarching federal law governing cat and dog breeders.

Currently, the Animal Welfare Act does not include governance over the retail sale of cats and dogs who are sold directly to consumers, “such as through websites, by telephone, at parking lots or from the kennel.”

More and more puppy millers are selling their dogs over the internet without any fear of being exposed. It’s a much more anonymous process for them. They can hide all the bad stuff, like: animal abuse, lack of vet care, poor living conditions for the animals, sick dogs and cats, etc. It’s much easier to fool the general public over the internet when they can’t see your facility and you don’t face inspection by the USDA.

The long running discourse began with the following postulation.

“Before everyone gets on the “Yahoo” bandwagon on this, please realize that any legislation that attempts to regulate folks in the way this one does is only going to get the honest and responsible folks. Limits on pet numbers is just the first PETA and HSUS step to get their foot in the door and then watch the numbers lower down. Who is gonna regulate the folks who backyard breed? How will they track folks who advertise in the newspapers or on internet?? Use a different phone number, a different email addy, a different ‘kennel’ name and in the eyes of the govt, they are different folks. The responsible breeders, who do the testing–health and genetic–and participate in dog sports and dog shows and breed only to better the breed are gonna be the ones who get hurt by this until—you and I can no longer own pets. Not a world I choose to live in. And no, I am not a breeder, yes I do rescue, yes I am a responsible pet owner who cares deeply about my dogs and any future dogs I will share my life with. This is not the way to fix things.”

I looked at this comment with some skepticism. When someone says something like “this is how PETA and HSUS plans to control you”, my feelers start twitching. It’s too close to Humane Watch propaganda to not have them twitch, but then another commenter asked “Is this bill funded in a self sustaining manner? Is there staffing? The USDA is overwhelmed and underfunded.” Now those are good questions, I thought. The USDA isn’t doing a good job inspecting the breeders they are supposed to be inspecting now. How could they possibly take on more?

This same commenter goes on to say that we should focus on enforcing current laws versus adding more laws. But, is that really an option? Current laws are all over the place depending on which state you live in. There is no national legislation around the retail sale of puppies and kitties. So are these the only options? To either support legislation that may not be able to be enforced effectively or to not support it at all? That seems rather limited doesn’t it?

To me, doing nothing seems like no option at all. We’re already way behind the puppy millers. They’re using the internet to sell their puppies and kitties now. (Heck, even eBay helps them out!) And, puppy millers now have access to folks who are willing to look the other way as long as they get paid to create their websites for them. So, do we not support a bill that captures the outliers, those flying under the radar? Or, do we support it and hope that the enforcement will come? I prefer the latter to the former.

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